Let’s take out the political spin and election promises – what has the Abbott Government done for women in its first year?
1. Massive cuts to education, health and community services which employ and support women
Sixty per cent of public servants are women who stand to lose their jobs under the government’s severe job cuts. Cuts to social assistance and services will reduce support for women to participate in the workforce and enjoy a better quality of life.
2. No extra funding for childcare and freezing the childcare rebate
The cost of childcare directly affects women’s capacity to afford to go back to work. Freezing the childcare rebate will make it simply unaffordable for many women to return to work.
3. Cutting off family benefits when children reach school age at the same time as ripping out funding for Out of School Hours Care and funding 4-year-old kindergarten for only one more year
We all know caring responsibilities for children don’t stop once they reach school age. Without adequate pre-school and out of school hour’s care, many women simply can’t work.
4. Cuts to single parent and family tax benefits
A single-income couple with two school-age children and average earnings will lose up to $4250 per year.
Single parenting payments will be reduced and unlikely to keep up with real increases in the cost of living.
5. Amendments to the Fair Work Act which will allow employers to pay women less if they need to access family- friendly work arrangements
The government wants employers to be able to trade employee’s wages and conditions for ‘non-financial benefits’, such as family friendly hours. The gender pay gap between men and women, who are still mostly responsible for caring for family members, will widen even further than its current 20 year record high.
6. Axing the Low Income Superannuation Contribution scheme
The government’s axing of the scheme has reduced retirement savings for 1 in 2 (over 2 million) working women by up to $27,000. Low income earners (2/3 of who are women) now pay more tax on their superannuation savings than they do on their income. The wealthy enjoy a 35% tax break on their super.
7. Watering down the Workplace Gender Equality legislation to lower employers reporting requirements on equal opportunity for women in their workplaces
The government has proposed to water down the minimum standards required of all employers to ensure women are treated equally in the workplace.
8. Increases to higher education fees
Whilst the higher fees and interest charged will see on average men taking 15 years to pay off their debts, because of their childrearing and broken employment history it will take women will take on average 26 years to pay off their university fees.
9. No new paid parental leave scheme
There are serious questions as to whether the Coalition will deliver its proposed paid parental leave scheme. The ONLY Coalition policy which was clearly designed to support women has been put on hold indefinitely.
10. No Women’s Budget Statement for the first time in 30 years
In 2014 this practice ceased without explanation from the Government.
Women make up half the workforce and half the voting population – we need to stand up for a better deal.
Article by Belinda Tkalcevic ACTU Industrial and Social policy